Massive Internet outage blamed on dispute between spam companies


If you noticed that your Internet was a little sluggish yesterday, you’re not alone: in what is being called the largest cyberattack in history by some, people around the world noticed that sites they were visiting were experiencing an unnatural slowdown.

According to a report by The New York Times, spam-fighting group Spamhaus allegedly added Dutch website hosting company Cyberbunker to its blacklist. The Times reports that Cyberbunker will offer its hosting services to any website “except child porn and anything related to terrorism,” which is still a very broad definition. After blacklisting Cyberbunker, Spamhaus began getting hit by denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

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According to Patrick Gilmore, the chief architect of digital Internet provider Akamai Technologies, Spamhaus pointing out Cyberbunker as one of the spammers of the world didn’t sit well, leading to the launch of the attack in the form of swarms of botnets, overwhelming Internet connections and basically plugging up connections around the world as people tried to access websites (in this case, the Internet really did act like a series of tubes).

At the peak of the attack, according to Gilmore and Spamhaus, the attacks peaked at 300 gigabits per second, which may be the largest amount of bandwidth ever recorded during a DDoS attack, Live Science reports. This flooded DNS servers, which connect users with the websites they are looking for, with requests for connections, thus slowing down everyone’s online experience.

And while it does appear that Cyberbunker was behind the DDoS attack, that’s hardly the whole story.

Some are now accusing a company called CloudFlare of exploiting the situation, by reporting ito be more serious than it actually is. The company posted a blog entry called “The DDoS That Almost Broke The Internet,” citing that the attack was on an unprecedented scale and something that is worth being very, very concerned about. Multiple news outlets picked up the story, including CNN, BBC and Associated Press.

But Gizmodo responded to the post, pointing out that while yes, this attack was indeed happening, we don’t need to run out and put on our tinfoil hats just yet. No one noticed as the attack ramped up to its peak last Saturday, many people didn’t even notice a perceivable slowdown in Internet speed at its peak, and web monitoring tools don’t show any real indication that there was a massive spike or drop in Internet traffic.

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Yahoo! Canada’s own finance blog Dashboard points out that these denial-of-service attacks can be extremely costly for businesses, but that hardly means it’s the end of times for the online world. Scare tactics, however, can be a good way to attract business – especially if you’re a website security company, which CloudFlare happens to be. Not to mention Spamhaus isn’t likely to fare badly in all of this, either; presumably, they’ll come out looking like famed protectors of the Internet as they block evil spam from circulating, surviving against the evil company trying to deter them from their noble mission.

Or something like that.

Nonetheless, while web security companies are likely to remain on vigilant watch to prevent widespread impact from DDoS attacks, it looks like, for now, the Internet is safe for another day.

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